There’s a reason carb cycling is so popular.
People who seem to be in peak physical condition and who are very passionate about this approach to eating believe it is ideal. They say carb cycling can help you:
- Get the accelerated fat loss that comes from a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet… while still eating carbs and… without sacrificing exercise performance.
- Avoid frustrating fat loss plateaus by better-regulating hormones like leptin and insulin.
- Gain muscle without gaining much fat.
But are these claims true? Even if what is true, will it apply to you?
This article is intended to assist you in deciding whether you should consider using carb cycling or if you may find more success with other methods first.
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is an eating plan that involves alternating between consuming low-carbohydrate foods and high-carbohydrate foods.
The most widespread way of alternating carb intake is to consume fewer carbs on certain days, and more on other days.
Those who engage in carb cycling often inadvertently end up cycling through their caloric intake as well. On the days of lower carbohydrate intake, they consume fewer calories and on the days of increased carbohydrate intake, they consume more calories.
For example, a typical carb cycling schedule might look like this:
- Non-workout days: low carb, low calorie.
- Workout days: high carb, high calorie.
You don’t have to stick to just one method to adjust your carb intake. Some folks carb cycle within a single day.
They will consume carb-heavy meals near their exercise but keep a low-carb diet for the remainder of the day.
A carb cycling regimen that necessitates the need to calculate macros or assess serving sizes is a quite sophisticated nutritional approach and should be pursued by those with intermediate or advanced-level nutrition knowledge. Perusing can be inconvenient to manage and is generally difficult for most individuals to do deftly.
It is most effective for those who are highly driven: amateur and professional athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals who receive remuneration depending on physical appearance and efficiency.
You might be wondering…
What is the importance of only concentrating on carbohydrates and not protein or fat?
In the beginning, adjusting the amount of carbs you eat could be beneficial to many essential hormones (we’ll take a deeper look into that soon).
Varying the amount of fat and protein in your diet will not have a positive outcome on hormone levels.
There’s also this:
Unfavorable consequences can arise when you don’t consume an adequate amount of protein or fat.
For instance, if you do not have enough fat in your diet, your period may cease. If you don’t consume an adequate amount of protein, you can suffer the loss of muscle and experience sudden changes in mood.
I don’t think you want to talk about that, so let’s just stick with discussing carbs.
5 Ways Carb Cycling Supports Fat Loss
The amount of carbohydrates you consume in a day is only one element of gaining control over the fat loss and by no means the most significant issue to take into account. No matter what, adjusting your macro objectives has its advantages, and a well-thought-out carb cycling plan could make the process of slimming down appear less onerous.
Here are five potential benefits of including carb cycling in your nutrition plan.
1. Carb Cycling Can Make Cutting Carbs Easier
It can be difficult to stay on a diet with few carbohydrates – particularly when consuming few to none, as on a keto regimen.
If your carbohydrate intake is too low, your brain will have a transient physiological answer which can lead to heightened desires (especially cravings for sweets), less self-control, and even make you somewhat grouchy. This attitude can impede your positive intentions and make decreasing food intake a difficult challenge.
You could try to fulfill your longing for carbohydrates by eating more of them when you are actively consuming them, which could make it easier to reduce your carbohydrate intake on low-carb days.
Some people opt to change their approach by having “refeeding days,” in which they cut back on carbs for a set period of time and then treat their bodies to a rest by consuming additional carbs on certain days.
2. Carb Cycling Might Improve Your Metabolism
But not in the way you think! Carb cycling won’t make up for the need to keep track of your calorie intake, but it could assist in managing your macronutrients in an effective manner.
It has been suggested that varying the amount of calories and carbohydrates you consume in each day may have a positive effect on your metabolism. However, research on this is still quite limited. It looks like this is caused by higher metabolic productivity because of providing your body with the correct nourishment at the correct time.
3. Carb Cycling May Improve Energy Levels
If you don’t fill up your fuel tank sufficiently, you can expect to become exhausted and worn out. Many individuals experience tremendous fatigue when they start a diet consisting of minimal carbohydrates, especially if they are active.
4. Carb Cycling Could Keep Your Hunger in Check
Obtaining carbohydrates for your body when it desires them is a large reason why carb cycling helps maintain appetite control, but varying carb intake could also have a positive effect on hormone amounts, particularly on leptin.
Studies have shown that supplementing with an excessive amount of carbohydrates could potentially raise leptin concentrations, which is a critical hormone in controlling hunger and burning fat. More research is necessary to discover how beneficial this result could be to aid you in reaching your weight loss ambitions.
5. Carb Cycling Supports Your Workouts
Carbohydrates and exercise are a great combination to help with physical fitness. Carbohydrates are essential for supplying the energy that is needed for intense exercise and weight lifting. Also, they help muscles recuperate and increase in a distinct way. By increasing the intensity of your workouts, you can expect to burn more calories, build more muscle, and achieve better results in general!
How to Carb Cycle in 5 Simple Steps
The complexities of carb cycling can be dependent on your nutrition objectives and how detailed you choose to be, but there are a few fundamentals that you can begin with.
Step 1: Learn How Many Carbs You Need a Day
The precise quantity of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that you need is determined by your individual health and fitness objectives. It is essential to calculate precisely how many grams of carbohydrates you should consume to meet your health and bodyweight objectives.
Input your desired carbohydrate goals into a handy calculator in a short amount of time.
Step 2: Map Out Your Week
Figure out when you plan to exercise, when you will be more active in general, and when you intend to relax. Plan out this on a calendar, sheet of paper, or some other place where you can easily look back to it during the week.
Step 3: Adjust Your Daily Carb Goals Accordingly
Figure out which days would necessitate consuming a significant amount of carbs and which ones would have a smaller quantity and put that information on the weekly schedule. Use the following for guidance.
- Eat fewer carbs on rest days or on days you are restricting calorie intake for weight loss.
- Eat more carbs on heavy training days, strength training days, and any time you are needing or using the extra calories.
It would be beneficial to increase your intake of carbohydrates at the time when you are most energetic and reduce your consumption during other parts of the day. Generally, people are often more energetic at the start of the day and become less active as it gets later, but this varies from person to person.
Here are some ideas you might take into account when selecting your carbohydrates.
- Eat more simple carbs before and after a workout session for quick fuel and optimal recovery.
- Eat more starchy and high fiber carbs throughout the day to promote fullness and better blood sugar control.
Step 4: Track Your Macros
Keep a record of your daily diet and drinks to calculate the number of grams of carbohydrates you are consuming. Download a macro friendly app to get started.
Step 5: Assess, Adjust, and Repeat
Assess your progress and adjust as needed. Be aware of how much you are eating and how much energy you have, and track how your exercise routine is going. Then add more carbs or scale back as needed.
Who Should Try Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling may not be suitable for every individual, but it can be beneficial to specific groups of individuals.
You’re most likely to benefit from carb cycling if:
You Have Your Big Rock Habits Down
You’re consuming a large amount of food that is minimally processed and have limited amounts of heavily processed food. You’re exercising. You’re getting plenty of quality sleep. And you’re eating mindfully.
Since the “big rocks” are already in place, it is worth exploring carb cycling as an option, rather than relying on it as the main strategy to realize outcomes.
It is essential to verify that carb cycling is effective in your specific circumstances before beginning, as we cannot be certain that it functions in all cases (not even nearly sure).
You’re Already Very Lean but Want to Get Leaner
When you have already achieved a very slim physique, your body will begin to oppose any further fat reduction. Limiting your consumption of calories and carbohydrates may prevent the metabolic adjustments that often accompany a constant long-term calorie shortage.
Biking more regularly can make it easier to cut calories without feeling like a struggle. That’s because it enables you to section off days in which you consume fewer amounts of food into smaller portions of time as opposed to enduring multiple weeks of dejection and starvation.
You Want to Manage Training and Nutritional Stress
If you’re worried that intensive training and an imbalance of calories may be a burden on your hormones, you could explore the option of alternating carbohydrate levels.
As long as you take additional steps to reduce their overall levels of stress such as getting sufficient rest, mediating, and being kind to yourself, enjoying snacks from time to time can assure your body that you’re doing okay and won’t starve. This is particularly useful for:
- Women (whose central hormonal regulation systems may be very sensitive to nutritional deficits, which is one of the reasons intermittent fasting isn’t always so great for women).
- Leaner people (who usually have less circulating leptin).
- Anyone who doesn’t tolerate stress well or who already has a high stress load.
You’re Trying to Cut Weight or Change the Appearance of Your Physique for Competition
The amount of carbohydrates consumed has an effect on the body’s hydration levels, which can impact a person’s physical weight and look during a contest or photoshoot.
You’re Aiming for Incremental Gains
Let’s say you’re an advanced lifter. You are in excelling condition already and you are approaching your body’s peak potential. Carb cycling could result in an increase of three pounds of muscle instead of just one in the course of a year. For an advanced lifter, that’s awesome progress.
Assuming that you are a newly established weightlifter, and your progress is starting to become recognizable.
It is unlikely that carb cycling will have a considerable effect on you. It could keep you from continually doing the vital things that will lead to your progress.
It would be prudent to remember this tactic in the future in case it becomes of use when you have become more experienced and the initial improvements you may have seen have diminished.
You Don’t Tolerate Carbs Well
Individuals with underlying metabolic troubles (like feeble blood glucose control or increased inflammation) might not feel the best (think: swollen and weary) after consuming large quantities of carbohydrates.
This collective might still be able to take advantage of carbohydrates when they are active. So they can have an advantage from obtaining most of their carbohydrates intake while they are exercising.
Given sufficient time and persistent action, they can become more metabolically fit, which would imply better general carbohydrate level tolerance and more dietary choices.
You Have a Solid Handle on Other Aspects of Their Health
Changing your habits always comes at a cost. Our article, The cost of getting lean, covers this topic in great detail.
Carb cycling might lead to less socializing due to having to stick to certain meal periods.
Tracking the amount and timing of your meals can bring about a feeling of stress and be difficult to manage. If that is the case, engaging in carb cycling could potentially be detrimental to one’s mental wellbeing.
For some people, these trade-offs may be worth it. For others, not so much.
Should You Try Carb Cycling?
Further study must be conducted to determine the extent of the effectiveness of carb cycling for losing fat. Many of us lead a stationary lifestyle and don’t need large amounts of carbohydrates in order to prosper. In reality, the majority of us consume excessive amounts of carbs or select the wrong types of carbohydrates too frequently – consuming high amounts of sugary, packaged items as opposed to carbohydrates from enhanced whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Figuring out how to modify your intake could be the breakthrough you are looking for.
You should pay attention to your food choices over the long run and include plenty of nutritious items, lean proteins, and good fats in your diet, in addition to watching your carb intake.
Carb cycling might be right for you if…
- You used to eat a high carb diet and are looking to decrease your intake.
- You struggle with sticking to a low carb diet.
- You are looking to get more out of your workouts.